Monday, August 29, 2005

Lawyered Up, Verizon Style

Penetrating the Verizon Wall of No Accountability is like trying to invade Helm's Deep. It's well-nigh impossible. Let's see if I can sneak in through the sewer pipe like Saruman's Orc Army almost did...

Over the weekend, we had some progress on the utility pole front. Someone came and propped it up with a comically long and spindly pipe thing that may or may not hold up to Tropical Depression Katrina once it arrives in a few days.

But the clapboards and cable connections are still hanging in midair. It is now Day 16 for the Hanging Clapboards of Tower Street. ("When will the Carter administration finally act to free them from their captivity? I'm Ted Koppel, and this... is Nightline!")

This morning I called Verizon customer service again, talked to "Jim," Verizon Employee Number 716. Lovely chap. Told me again to "Call the legal department." So I called the main Verizon switchboard and the receptionist gave me an 800 number to call to make a claim. I called and spoke with a robot. Then I emailed them.

I waited three hours for a response. Nothing. Decided to send a demand letter, registered mail. But for that, my mom (who worked for lawyers for many years) said that I would need the name of someone specific to send the letter to. Just sending it to the "Legal Department" wouldn't work.

So I called the Verizon offices here in Boston and asked to be connected with the Legal Department. This is my memory of the conversation:

"Hello, Verizon Communications."

"I'd like to be connected with the Legal Department, please."

"Who are you calling sir?"

"Well, I don't know yet. I need the name of someone to send a demand letter to."

"A demand for compensation?"

"Yes, for property damage."

"You need to call our 800 number for property damage claims."

"Already did that. I also want to send a demand letter to a human being in the legal department."

"I'm sorry, sir, but I can't transfer you to the legal department without a name."

"Come on, just let me talk to the-"

She hangs up on me, transferring me to Verizon's bottom-level voice mail system. A voice asked if I would like to sign up for Verizon Online DSL. I hung up.

To the web! and the online Martindale-Hubbell legal directory! I type in "Verizon," "Boston," and "Suffolk County" into the lawyer search form.

Voila! A name pops up. A single, solitary name: Lynne Anne Sousa. I see she is exactly as old as me, born 1968, and that she went to American University for her BA and got her J.D. here in Boston at Suffolk U.

Back to the Verizon switchboard. "Can I please speak with Lynne Anne Sousa in the legal department?"

The receptionist gave me a number in the 972 area code. Strange. Maybe a cell phone?

I call the number and Ms. Sousa answers.

"My name is Chris Hartman and I'm having trouble getting compensation for some property damage caused by Verizon and--"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Sousa said. "I'm in Houston. You're in...looks like Boston, based on your area code."

"Yes. Could you give me the name of someone in Boston that I could send my demand letter to?"

"Well, I work in labor and employment, not claims, so I don't know...Hey, how did you get my number anyway?"

"I looked up the Verizon legal department at and your name came up as working there in the Boston office. So I called the switchboard here in Boston and they gave me your number."

"They wha-- Who gave you my number? The Verizon switchboard in Boston?"

"Yes." I imagine the receptionist here in Boston will very soon get an angry call from Ms. Sousa. I asked, "So did you used to work there in Boston?"

"Yes, a while ago."

"Well, surely you have an old colleague there who you can tell me to call--"

"No, I'm not going to put them through what I'm going through here--"

Did she actually say that? "What I'M going through here?" Wow.

I regained my composure and exclaimed, "What YOU'RE going through? What about what I'm going through?"

"OK, OK, just a minute. I will call someone and have them get back in touch with you."

Glad for this bit of conciliation, the first bit in my two weeks of dealing with Verizon, I say, "Great, thanks so much for doing that. When should I expect to hear from someone?"

"Well," Sousa replies, "I will put myself on the line and say that if you don't hear from someone in 24 hours you can call me back." Profiles in courage there, wouldn't you say? Putting herself on the damn line!

Stay tuned...


Eve's Apple said...

I am riveted!

This is like one of those Saturday matinee serials that Scorsese and his colleagues dreamily reference when discussing why they became filmmakers.

Will the reluctant informant come through? Will our hero learn the name of the mythical contractor? Will the clapboards...GULP...keep hanging?

Tune in tomorrow!

Karlissimo del Banco said...

I think it's time to take hostages.

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